The master and chief engineer of a Turkish container ship will face human smuggling charges in Pennsylvania after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided their ship in Port Elizabeth in New Jersey on January 30.
Captain Özcan Köse, 36, and his brother Oğuz Köse, 35, have been accused of taking $25,000 each to smuggle two illegal Turkish passengers into the U.S. on the Marshall Islands-registered Niledutch Osprey.
Local Turkish media report that, according to a criminal complaint filed, authorities were alerted to the smuggling network founded by the brothers after a Turkish secret witness, who was smuggled into the U.S. in May 2013, was caught by the police in April 2016 and became an informant.
The informant paid the two ship’s officers $25,000 each and passed through a Turkish security check with a fake ID. He then hid on the ship for the 18-day voyage. He said that the officers told of other people they had smuggled into the U.S. and Canada and that they helped him pass through U.S. security.
A few months later, he was contacted via Facebook to see if he knew of anyone else that wanted to make the trip to the U.S.
The Hürriyet Daily News notes that there has been no connection drawn in the case to Fethullah Gülen, reportedly sought by the Turkish government for alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and currently living in Pennsylvania.
The Köse brothers and the two Turkish illegal passengers are expected to appear in court on February 6.